The official 3rd Annual Mudspike Christmas Flight - 2017 Edition


Russia will be curious as to the sudden surge in foreign traffic and diversity of equipment used. :smile:


No, I haven’t. On the list for the next read, and with that I have received my first advanced Christmas present from someone for this year. Thanks! At the moment, I am re-reading The Journals of Captain Cook, as it is topical and a long, long while since I first read it. It is much more significant (and interesting, too) this time around.


Present Situation

23 October, 2017, 20:35 UTC, position; N 2º 3.89’ W 157º 4.74’, 8 leagues out from destination.

Last night I shortened sail before retiring for the night, to kill some of the way the vessel was making, or it would have sailed clear past Kritimati at 10.4 knots (avg) while I was asleep. I brought in the gennaker, set the jib in its place, and reefed down the main. There was some variation in the wind happening at the time, as it appeared to be veering, but a bit later settled to a gentle breeze, as per the Beaufort scale, 6 points to port off the stern, almost abeam. My way became 6.2 knots, and I was happy with that for the night (the screenie shows the earlier situation, with the wind still in the port quarter, and not making much way)…

It worked a treat, as this morning I found myself within 20 leagues of Kritimati. I furled in the jib and reset the sail area again to gennaker and full main, set it reasonably close hauled on the reach, with the wind still on a point abaft the port beam, and let the Ocean Belle heel triumphantly to starboard for her dash into Kritimati. This is an ideal situation for a fore and aft rigged vessel, and for the first time since I have had the sim, the Ocean Belle is making way a knot and a half faster that the wind is blowing.

Sea birds start to appear, and despite the fact that this has been a simulation I have been nursing through the voyage, there is some elation to be felt at the sight. It must be a wonderful feeling IRL!

I will be away IRL for three days as from tomorrow early morning, so I am going to heave to just north of Kritimati, haul in the sails and complete this leg of the voyage when I get back. I’m contemplating my diplomatic strategy with the unfriendly looking denizen of Kritimati @BeachAV8R so kindly warned me about! :grin:

Celestial Navigation, and others
(omit reading if the subject does not interest you at all, please)

I did get to the bottom of the issue of the time difference I was experiencing in the last post. This may be a little long winded to explain, not sure yet as I write it…

All my readings of sun zenith throughout the voyage have had an error with the actual UTC time of the sun over the meridian, yet are pinpointing me accurately (down to within 8-12 nautical miles, on some of them). I have been finding this very perplexing. I have never been satisfied with being right by chance, so I looked into it in some greater depth. In short, this is what is happening…

The simulation is calculating the sun’s apparent movement with the same error that I am including in my calculations, therefore giving me the correct longitude position in the game world, even though the real world times are quite different.

For example, yesterday, there was a 16 minute error on the real UTC time of the sun over meridian W 155º. The assumption of mine was that the sun would be over the Prime Meridian at exactly 12:00 UTC. It turns out that the game is making exactly the same assumption, and causing my calculations to work. But it is not correct.

There is a little feature of orbital mechanics for bodies with a rotational axis tilted to its plane of orbital rotation. It is exactly the same feature that tail-dragger pilots know about and that happens transitionally as you pick the tail up during the take off run (fond memories of the PA-18-150, for me). We know it as gyroscopic precession. I have heard about this feature before, but ignored its effects. Where the planet is concerned, this gyroscopic resultant has the effect of causing the rotation of the planet to lag and gain, back and forth, throughout the year, so the time of the sun over the Prime Meridian is, actually, rarely exactly 12:00 UTC.

With this in mind, I break out Stellarium (which is quite accurately modeled), and take snapshots of the time over the Prime Merdian on the dates of the Vernal Equinox, Vernal Solstice, Invernal Equinox, and Invernal Solstice. Here are the results…

Note the zenith times, which I was originally assuming to be 12:00 UTC.

March 20: UTC 12:06:55
June 21: UTC 12:01:30
September 22: UTC 11:52:10
December 21: UTC 11:57:55

The variation, on some points of the year, is even considerably greater than these, as like now, a 16 minute difference.

Again: This is an error that I made that coincided with an error in the game regarding sun time over the Prime Meridian. There is nothing wrong with the method of calculation, I stress, or it would never have been pinpointing my longitude with the accuracy with which it was doing so.

Add to this, an error that exists in the game, in which Polaris does not stay static over Geographic North, but behaves more like Kochab in Ursa Minor, and we have an astronomical model in Sailaway that is nowhere near as accurate as advertised. No wonder they are not giving us a sextant! However, benefit of the doubt; it is a brand new game, and fixing these issues may well be on the cards. I’ll continue to gather data, and when I have some more concrete stuff to put in writing to the developers, I’ll do so (if someone doesn’t beat me to it).

Now, who says you don’t learn new things on the Mudspike Christmas Expedition? It is why I’m such a fan of it! LOL!

And lastly…

@PaulRix You knew this all along and have been having a laugh at my expense!


omit reading if the subject does not interest you at all, please

There’s a lot of things I take for granted, but having someone explain celestial navigation isn’t one. I’ve been interested in it after reading books on RAF bomber command as well as fiction (Hornblower for example). You lost me at “others” BTW. :wink:

I have read both of your technical explanation posts several times and whilst I cannot comprehend exactly what your are talking about, I marvel at the attention to detail and your passion for learning and understanding this stuff.

Going back over it again, it’s like being in a very difficult maths class.

Keets aka “the numpty” :grin:


Agreed…! I have a very nice sextant up in my cabinet that I’ve not totally sat down to learn. I should take it to the beach with me next time (I guess it helps to have a good horizon line)…


Leg 4!

Taking off from UHPP (Petropavlovsk-Kamtchatsky) in Russia, my fourth leg brings me in the heart of Japan, the Haneda Airport of Tokyo (RJTT). It’s a 1300 nm long trip. I know, @PaulRix, we were supposed to meet at Sapporo for a drink, but I’m not a fan of japanese beer.

Oh, and this time I’m doing it in PMDG’s 747-400. I took a chance: if I know the 737 NGX well enough, I guess learning the 747 shouldn’t be too difficult, eh? Let’s find out!

It’s late afternoon in Petropavlovsk. The weather is better, this time. As I taxi towards runway 34R, I feel the wheels squeaking and the aircraft rumble. This plane is MASSIVE! Loaded with 130000 lbs of fuel, I feel like I’m taxiing a boat with wings.

Up we go!

I climb up to FL360 and leave the mountains behind me.

There is a very nasty crosswind mixed with turbulence as I climb. The cockpit rattles, shakes and I can feel the whole structure flex under the strength of the russian winds.

Some distant lightning strikes tear through the sky behind me. In front, there’s a beautiful sunset.

An hour into the flight, the sky’s colour palette changes drastically. I go “wow” for a few minutes.

The night settles in as I cross the Okhotsk Sea.

I eventually reach the japanese mainland from the North. It’s pitch dark.

I start my descent a bit earlier than the Top of Descent point. My last flights all had that one thing in common: I had to land manually because I failed to perform an appropriate descent in order to catch the glide slope on final. Since the 747 has a lot of inertia, I don’t want to get stuck in a situation where I’m too high on final and can’t catch the glide slope without overspeeding.

This time, I reach the last STAR’s waypoint 5000 ft AGL early. This way, I’m a bit too low but I can easily capture the localizer, then I can arm the APP mode and the autopilot can easily capture the glideslope if I come a bit below and I can bleed enough speed. Seems like all the mistakes I’ve done in the past finally made me learn something.

And there it is! It feels very satisfying to finally perform a good ILS approach.

Perfectly aligned on runway 34L.

My wheels barely touch the runway and the autobrake does its magic. Boy, this plane feels heavy!

Thrust reversers roar through the night, I feel relief as I see the airspeed diminish. This plane REALLY has to be managed carefully if you want to land in one piece.

Overall, I’m really, really glad that there is such commonality between the 737 NG and the 747 cockpits. It’s quite apparent that they were both designed with the same philosophy. Programming the FMC was very similar, and while the engine start procedure differed a tiny bit, it was more or less the same.

The 747 is becoming a favourite of mine. Who knew flying a heavy lifter could be so much fun?

I taxi slowly towards the parking gate. Phew!

Aaand we’re finally there. Konnichiwa, Tokyo!


Nice report…it does seem that you are getting a handle on staying ahead of the plane…! Really nice job and some fantastic screens. The PMDG 747 is one I haven’t picked up…for no other reason than I would like to savor it someday and don’t feel like I have the commitment to do that at the moment.


Leg 5: Tokyo Haneda International Airport (RJTT) - Hong Kong Airport, Chek Lap Kok (VHHH)

It’s roughly 1600 nm. Weather at Tokyo is grey and gloomy, but METAR predictions show that Hong Kong is a little cloudy but has good flying weather.

I came in Tokyo by night, therefore I didn’t have much time to visit. Ironically, I will not see much of it either since there is a rainy cloud cover masking the whole countryside.

This time, I decide to try out a new ride: Rotate’s MD80!

I have never flown that one before, but I watched a good tutorial from Froogle explaining the basics of the mighty Mad Dog. The cockpit layout is a bit alien, but not something I can’t figure out as I fly to China.I load up 35000 lbs of fuel and fill the rest with cargo until I reach MTOW. Let’s go for something a little challenging. All right! Time to line up on runway 16L.

Up we go!

That plane sure hauls ass in a climb. As I follow the SID out of Tokyo, I engage the autopilot and engage the wing anti-ice and engine anti-ice systems as I climb through the clouds.

As I reach 30000 ft, I can distinguish the last few southern islands of Japan in the Nagasaki prefecture. It feels weird to think that a nuclear bomb once ravaged in these parts…

I eventually spot the silhouette of the chinese mainland. I will spend of my cruise flying parallel to it.

Froogle wasn’t lying: this aircraft is really, really fun to fly. It accelerates well and can bleed speed much more easily than the Boeings and Airbuses I’m used to. No matter the angle, I can’t help but find the Mad Dog uncomfortably attractive.

From the rear…

From the inside…

From the front too!

I eventually run into some trouble with the autopilot; for some reason, it was tracking the very last waypoint of the flight instead of what I thought to be the “active” waypoint. I spend a good half hour trying to modify my flight plan fruitlessly. This makes me explore the FMS… it seems quite similar to something you’d see on Boeings. Eventually, the lightbulb lights up. Ah ha! I rapidly figured out how to set the correct active waypoint via the FMC, the autopilot finally seemed to work like it was supposed to.

After an uneventful flight, I finally reach the shoreline of the Guangdong province.

I’m still pretty high, but the STAR of the flight plan will make me do a whole 360 degree descent around the island to bleed all this altitude.

As I overfly The Chek Lap Kok airport, I start my descent.

The Mad Dog is really great at decellerating and accelerating. The descent is very manageable all the way down to 5000 ft.

Right turn on final approach. Time to capture that localizer and glide slope for an ILS approach!

The mountains are gorgeous. X-Plane has really great lighting effects.

As I line up for final, a strong crosswind throws me off balance. I can’t use the Autoland feature since it’s apparently not been implemented by Rotate. Oh well, time to fly this bird manually.

Time to turn off that autopilot and autothrottle.

The runway approaches but the wind gets stronger. I have to crab abnormally hard.

Almost… almost there!

I uncrab at the last second, hoping for a smooth touchdown.

And it is! I watch with glee the heavy lifters parked afar.

Thrust reversers on, slowing down.

Unloading cargo and passengers. Phew, not too bad for a first flight in the Mad Dog! Overall, I’m pretty sure subsequent flights will be much easier.

I feel small next to these other planes. They’re just so much bigger!

I think I may have found a real gem in the Mad Dog. Rotate’s version is great. I’m quite curious to see if Leonardo can do even better with his “Fly the Maddog X” for FSX and Prepar3d.

So, that’s it! Really cool trip, that one. It’s one of these planes I’ll probably want to write something about eventually.


Finishing my track from Romania to Turkey.

This time the low failures were kind to me, no engine failures, only some stacked insect in the pitot tube. Next stop I need to find in my baggage the ‘Remove Before Flight’ sock.
But the G1000 did the job

What is actually very interesting on the default cockpits is, that all the knobs, switches and buttons you see on the pictures are clickable and works. And even the fuses do what they should!

I have to say that this is quite high bar from the developers. But I appreciate this approach. All the payment addon aircrafts will be compared to the default fleet and hopefully will provide same or better detail

Here I crossed the Bosporus and saw the bridge… but it was not that bridge I planed to see… maybe on my way back…


This Northern part of Turkey is not so sandy as I expected. Still enough green all around

And the sand when emerged… looked more like snow… in the end its a Christmas flight so enjoy and keep going :slight_smile:

Setting Diamond in the setting sun


hey @Fsjoe, if I count correctly we have three of us starting from old continent, namely:

@NEVO from SVK in TR atm
@keets from UK in FR atm
@Fsjoe from FR in AUT atm
@Freak from NL in between :wink:
@entreplume from FR …still in FR

did I forget somebody? Rise your hand pls! :slight_smile:


Me from NL, altbough I haven’t really started yet. Am halfway though my first leg


Leg 6: Departing from Chek Lap Kok Airport (VHHH, Hong Kong) and arriving to Tan Son Nhat International Airport (VVTS, Ho Chi Minh Ville)

This time, I wanted to try out the Bombardier CRJ900 for a shorter leg (about 800 nm). I load up 16000 lbs of fuel for good measure. While I set the ground power and waited for IRS alignment, I studied a bit the aircraft. I see CRJs and Q400s land at my local airport all the time, so I thought it would be interesting to try out a regional jet for a change.

I taxi towards runway 25L. I feel like I’m much closer to the ground, this time. The aircraft has a very short landing gear. I look around the cockpit and I love what I see. The overhead panel is really simple and everything looks like it’s in a logical place. However, I can’t say the same of the Baro and PF mode & range selector on the side, partly hidden by the yoke. These switches are important, but it doesn’t look like they’ve been placed in an easy place to access.

A peculiarity of the CRJ is that there is no VNAV autopilot. You control your airspeed and climb rate with the throttle. The rest of the autopilot modes are merely there to help you hold a level altitude by varying airspeed and pitch, or maintain a constant rate of climb/descent, or maintain a certain airspeed by changing the aircraft’s attitude. This makes climbing straightforward if you manage it correctly, but makes descent much harder to manage if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Lined up on the runway, full throttle!

I’m a bit heavy but I finally leave the ground.

Bye bye, Hong Kong!

The weather is very nice and I begin a steep climb. So far so good, the aircraft behaves as expected.

It’s literally my first flight with it, so I’m very uneasy that something could go wrong at any moment. It feels kind of weird to fly without a vertical component of the autopilot. I always feel like I want to trim, but I sort of can’t because it will disengage the NAV (some sort of LNAV in our case) autopilot if I do so. Once the AP is engaged, the only thing I can do is play with the throttle and use various indirect ways to control my altitude with my speed. It’s quite annoying to be stuck where you feel you’re flying with “half an autopilot”. I’d rather fly the whole thing manually at that point.

As I reach a cruising altitude of 30000 ft, I have to constantly adjust my throttle to maintain an airspeed of roughly Mach 0.74-0.78.

The dense jungles of Vietnam are covered in mist as I cross the vietnamese shoreline. FSX textures for this part are veeery bad, but I’m way too busy trying to manage my airspeed. I’ve been busy doing that since I first took off and still haven’t stopped! The workload on these jets is a bit higher than anticipated, that’s for sure.

As I fly over Ho Chi Minh Ville, I timidly start my descent.

I come to a point where I don’t really know how to control my approach glide slope anymore. The fact that the aircraft doesn’t have a vertical autopilot to track the glide slope makes it really difficult to maintain a proper GS while maintaining airspeed with one of the autopilot modes.

The runway. I’m way too low at that point and need to gun the throttle to control my speed and altitude.

I have a terrible, terrible time trying to line up correctly. I see the localizer reference but not the glide slope. The runway is approaching dangerously fast!

As the runway gets bigger and bigger, I hopelessly mash the APPR button without success. How the hell does that thing even work? Too bad, I gotta land like… right now! I give up the whole autopilot thing. Screw it. I’ll have to learn it properly some other time.

I land on runway 25R at Ho Chi Minh Ville. It’s really NOT a landing I’m proud of.

I look around… the scenery is quite “meh”. FSX hasn’t been kind to the Asian continent.

Overall, I finished my flight super frustrated. I feel like I haven’t taken enough time to learn this plane. And when I was put in situations where I had to do some decision-making, I didn’t know exactly what to do… I just had a general idea of what I could try. It sure looks challenging, but if you fail to manage your speed properly you can have a really, really bad time. CRJs are harder to master than I initially thought. I guess I’ll have to dig up more tutorials on the CRJ900.


You need to be aware that the depicted events were actually story told by a soldier, who lived through the battle, at a bonfire to the his people. And as he was very good story teller it was mix of his experiences and his imagination.

I really like this movie for what it is, one of my favourite.


I liked (and owned) the graphic novel before it was cool…


All right, folks, for my Leg 7, I decided to make a little detour by Bangkok to explore a bit while I was in the area.

The planned flight was a short 400 nm from Tan Son Nhat International Airport (VVTS, Chi Minh Ville) to Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok, VTBS).

Now, why did I decide to go from Vietnam to Thailand? The reason was quite simple: to settle a score.

As some of you may remember from my last flight, I had an unfinished business with the Aerosoft/Digital Aviation Bombardier CRJ900. Last flight was downright terrible, my landing was terrible, and my overall experience in this aircraft was terrible due to the different way its autopilot worked, which is with no VNAV and no autothrottle. This time, I wanted to do a flight by-the-book and nail that landing.

I read, read and read some more until I finally figured out the autopilot. During a climb, I can simply set my target cruising altitude and set my vertical speed. The aircraft will change its pitch to meet the V/S-Altitude target. The only thing I need to gauge is the throttle to provide enough power, the autopilot takes care of the rest in terms of pitch and roll.

During a cruise, the altitude-hold mode will automatically engage when I’m in range of my target altitude. Once again, the aircraft will change the pitch and roll to maintain my NAV course (FMC flight plan) and the pitch to maintain the altitude if I have enough thrust. I need to constantly adjust my throttle to control the speed and make sure the autopilot has what it needs to keep me in the parameters I want him to be.

As I cross over Thailand, I see the jungle underneath.

For the descent, I use a similar logic that I used for the climb. Set my target altitude (end of descent, usually), then engage the V/S autopilot to keep me in a steady descent. I will control my airspeed with my throttle. The descent isn’t made at idle; I need to constantly manage my thrust to have a manageable trajectory and attitude.

I follow the STAR to runway 19L of Suvarnabhumi Airport. Strangely enough, I don’t get anything on the ATIS. I double-check real quick; nope, it’s the right frequency, with the right ILS freq and everything. I look around, but I fail to spot the airport from afar. Maybe it’s really small, who knows? Something feels off…

As I line up on the localizer, I realize that I’m heading straight towards… nothing?

What? I do a double-take… what? Where is that darn field? There’s just, nothing!

I ram the throttle in rage, not understanding what the hell just happened. I check my instruments… no, it should be there. Hell, I even see the VTBS icon on my Navigation Display. I put the aircraft in a holding pattern at 4000 ft while I dig up my cell phone to try and figure out why I can’t find that darn runway.

Aaaand there it is. The revelation. The answer to the big mystery of Sherlock Holmes and the Invisible Airport. VTBS isn’t in FSX because that airport didn’t exist when the sim first came out. Suvarnabhumi was officially operational in 2006! I finally go around, wondering where I can land.

I look in my FMC for alternate airports… yes, there’s one! VTBD is available. Phew! I quickly google some Jeppesen charts of Don Mueang International Airport and promptly enter the ILS freq and the ATIS radio frequency. The lovely voice of the ATC rings through my ears. Gotcha! I enter my QNH and program my alternate STAR and approach. I follow the updated flight plan line and eventually line up with the runway.

Localizer is good. I’m a bit high, but the tower clears me for landing.

So far so good!

As I nose down to catch the glide slope, I see a silhouette below. That’s a plane landing right under me! Holy shmollies!

I can already hear the fictional ATC tell me to go around ASAP. I throttle up and climb back up to 3000 ft.

I think I made the right decision; safety first! I enter a holding pattern for 4-5 minutes, and once the runway is vacated I circle around and re-attempt my approach.

The second approach attempt is much better than the first one. I finally feel like I’ve mastered that CRJ! As I capture the localizer and get an ok glide slope, I disconnect the autopilot.

Using the PAPI lights for guidance, I set the aircraft in a better attitude by throttling up and nosing down.

Flaps 20, gear down, thrust reversers armed.

A little windy, but nothing I can’t manage.

I touchdown smoothly, but a bit too much AoA than I’m comfortable with. Yee-haw!

Thrust reversers on!

Slowing down nicely.

Vacating the runway.

And we’re finally home, after tracking an airport that didn’t exist and almost colliding with a landing aircraft. Quite eventful, but I’m glad I was finally able to tame the beast.

I think the moral of this story is that sometimes, when a plane is frustrating to learn, it’s a good idea to take a step back and try another flight but after having done more reading to understand how the aircraft works and how it is operated. Once my brain finally made the connection regarding throttle management during the flight, this seemingly high workload became quite easy to manage once I knew what to do. Once the CRJ started to behave the way I expected it to, I felt an immense sense of satisfaction. I thought… you know what? Maybe the CRJ isn’t so bad after all.


That’s quite an adventure.

Do you have any kind of assistance in predicting your trajectory during descent?


Nope, I use a rule of thumb to know what distance I need to lose my current altitude and I just eyeball it.

Ssay, if I’m at 30000 ft, I need 3 x (30000 - target altitude of 5000 ft) / 1000, which is 75 nm. To that, I add another 10 nm for deceleration. This would be your Top of Descent from the last waypoint of your STAR. During descent I try to maintain 250 kts by moving my throttle accordingly.


LOL…I can’t tell you how much grief navigation databases have given me over the years. Trying to default FSX waypoints with approaches, SIDs, and STARs, that have been updated maybe even a dozen times since is a frustrating problem. Good save - glad it wasn’t hard IFR…LOL…


Oh, I am aware @NEVO! It is a very fair comment. I’m glad that you liked the film, as its entertainment value was never in question.

Like I said, it was a personal opinion, with no intention to cause any form of offense. Apologies if it did!




Nothing to apologize for @Cygon_Parrot , I did fully understand that from your initial replay.
It was definitely not a documentary. But anyway, if you can recomend any good documentary read/video about the Spartans I will be interested. There are many rumors and ‘popular culture/opinion’ to say about them.

hey @Chuck_Owl, realy good reports there. All your experiences remind me about last anual flight where I did familiarize my self with DC-10 :slight_smile:

You are doing great progress, you will have enough time to make it back home before Xmas :wink: